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Another Case of Unlawful Practice of Immigration Law Busted

Immigrants to the U.S. face many unique challenges, particularly when they are new to our culture, unfamiliar with the laws, and don’t speak English well or at all.  It’s not uncommon for many immigrants to rely on other immigrants that share their culture and language, for assistance.

When it comes to immigration assistance though, we’ve written many articles on unscrupulous individuals, pretending to be immigration attorneys or authorized Board of Immigration Appeals representatives, who take advantage of immigrants.  These notarios, usually set up shop, take the money of unsuspecting immigrants, and are later nowhere to be found to be held accountable for their fraud.

Fortunately, the government isn’t always so blind to the deceptive practices of notarios.  Occasionally, successful cases of prosecution are reported, including here, here and here.  Recently, another case has emerged, this time in Chicago.  Prosecutions usually rely on victims coming forward and providing enough evidence to seal a conviction against the perpetrators.

Maricela Haro was recently indicted on charges of scamming 12 people related to immigration fraud.  According to at least one of her victims, Ms. Haro’s method of operation was to cozy up to immigrants in order to gain their trust, while falsely claiming that she had a brother who served in the USCIS in a high-ranking role.  Her victim alleged that Ms. Haro promised to obtain greencards in exchange for money, regardless of the immigrant’s status in the country.

Victims of Ms. Haro claimed that they spent lots of personal time with her and her family, as a way for her to build trust with her victims.  Once it became apparent that the money spent had produced no actual results, despite the passage of time, the victims said Ms. Haro would stop calling and answering their calls.

With the help of the victims, the Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia filed complaints with the Illinois Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Chicago Police Department against Ms. Haro.  The case is currently awaiting a hearing later this month.

Stop-Notario-FraudThe unfortunate fact is that unauthorized practice of immigration law hurts not only immigrants, but all immigration practitioners.  In rare cases where immigrants still have an opportunity to remediate their status from the harm caused by notarios, legitimate practitioners must work extra hard to repair the damage.  Many times though, the harm is too severe for any asssitance to be rendered.

For practitioners, the best way to help immigrant clients and communities is to provide up-to-date information when immigration policies shift.  That includes regularly and timely communications with clients, the community, and partners in your network. The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association has dedicated a website to educating the public on notario fraud, including a map with state by state assistance on where to get assistance for victims who have been injured.  USCIS has dedicated a page on its website to alert the public to immigration scams.  Educating the public on the dangers of using unauthorized immigration notarios helps to ensure immigrants seek legitimate help.